17 January 2012, 21:56

New US ambassador meets Russian opposition

New US ambassador meets Russian opposition

The US will support the development of civil society in Russia, the new US ambassador in Russia Michael McFaul and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said in Moscow on Tuesday during their meeting Russian right activists, leaders of the opposition and public associations.

The US will support the development of civil society in Russia, the new US ambassador in Russia Michael McFaul and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said in Moscow on Tuesday during their meeting Russian right activists, leaders of the opposition and public associations.

The new head of the US diplomatic mission assumed his office just several days ago. Among those who wanted to meet Michael McFaul in Moscow were the leader of the Yabloko party Sergey Mitrokhin, head of the Golos (Voice) association Lilia Shibanova, the Russian branch of Transparency International Elena Panfilova, and co-chairmen of the Parnas party Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov.  According to right activist Lev Ponomaryov, the meeting’s agenda included such topics as abuses of human rights, the upcoming presidential elections in Russia, the current state of the business and the recent rallies in Moscow.  For the co-chairman of Parnas Vladimir Ryzhkov such a meeting was not something unusual.

"I meet ambassadors of different countries because they want to know not only the official point of view, which they get from the government's representatives and the ruling party, but also the point of view of the opposition to be able to get a better understanding of the situation. They asked us general questions about our views on the situation in the country, on the protest movement, and the forthcoming presidential elections. Everyone had the opportunity to express his point of view."

Ryzhkov added that he had known Mr. McFaul for quite a long time and as far as he was concerned, this meeting was marked by a friendly atmosphere. Yabloko’s leader Sergei Mitrokhin had also met the new ambassador a long time ago.

"He is an interesting person and a serious-minded political analyst with whom it is possible to discuss various topics. This time we spoke about the situation in Russia and I was the only one of the Russian participants to touch upon the issue of the US-Russian relations, in particular the issue of the joint anti-missile defense system the Yabloko party is concerned about." 

It should be stressed that Michael McFaul is regarded as one of the best US experts on Russia and he speaks fluent Russian. Having worked at Stanford University and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he became Barack Obama’s advisor on Russia. McFaul first came to Russia back in the Soviet times. Since then he has considered himself as an 'ideological anti-communist' and has done his best to promote democratic reforms in Russia.

McFaul is regarded as one of the architects of the “reset” in the US-Russia relations and an advocate of the American type of democracy outside the US. That is why some experts believe it is not coincidental that McFaul who has a complicated attitude towards Russia has been appointed as the new ambassador amid the active stage of the presidential campaign.  Suffice it to say that at the ceremony of McFaul’s appointment, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the coming months would be critical for Russia's democracy.

It seems that 'non-standard' methods must be employed in order for the “reset” in the Russian-US relations to continue now that the relations between the countries are again going through a rather difficult stage. McFaul is convinced that these 'non-standard' methods will be the most efficient. Although he did not elaborate in the meeting on Tuesday what exactly could be regarded as an example of such 'non-standard' methods. It was the first time a US ambassador has met leaders of the protest movement in Russia just several days after taking up his duties.

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